It is often said that knowledge is equal to power.
While this statement cannot be universally applied (and is in fact somewhat cliche), it reflects an important truth regarding the state of today’s global economy.
We are experiencing an information revolution.
In stagnant job markets, revolutions are sure to arise. Often beginning with workforce discontent, these revolts have the potential to wash away staleness, and stimulate a new era of innovation.
If history has taught us one important lesson, it is that change never comes easy.
After much effort on the part of both consumers, employers, and employees, a new era in workforce management has arrived to remove the old, archaic methods of the past. New needs are the norm, especially for employees and consumers, and they must be creatively met like never before.
A shift in values has visibly manifested in the relationship between employer and employee.
A change in the employment paradigm has occurred, and as such, traditional workplace management will soon be obsolete. The limits of the employer-employee business relationship are no longer controlled and dictated by geographic location.
Businesses can no longer justify the creative limitations of past generations… today, the digital value driver of the global economy is information.
And information knows no borders.
Nowhere has this notion manifested in a clearer way than with the rise of the Digital Nomad…
The trademark of the information revolution as been the free flowing and cross border movement of knowledge. Digital Nomads have been a revolutionary force, driving the digital age forward with their so-called “non-traditional lifestyle.”
Digital Nomads are those individuals who utilize advances in telecommunication technologies to work remotely, free from traditional restraints of the “9-5.” They earn a living engaging in a lifestyle that is truly representative of their digital age values, i.e. developing stimulating work engagements:
“Wherever, whenever, and however we want.”
From coffee shops, to public libraries, to hostels. From Vienna, to Medellin, to New York City. Digital Nomads focus on experience based value drivers to accomplish tasks that were traditionally limited to brick and mortar office spaces.
Digital Nomads take advantage of the information age by creatively applying smart devices, wireless internet, and cloud based operations. They use these tools to communicate with contracting employers, wherever in the world they may be located.
These individuals are often able to support a productive and rewarding lifestyle as a result of ambition, careful planning, and a wealth of digital tools / applications made possible by modern technology.
“Great,” you may say…
“But how does this affect my business? What lessons can I learn? What benefits do Digital Nomads bring to my brick and mortar?”
I have news for you.
“Non-traditional” is now the norm.
The time to adjust is now.
As with most forms of compelling innovation, there will be some early adopters (there are already), and there will also be those who, in hindsight, wish they had adopted. (maybe this is you?) Much like those businesses and industries that resisted the call to adapt to Millennial consumer values, those who fail to adapt to the new employee value paradigm will miss the ROI train.
Are there other important digital age employee values?
In a word, YES.
“The digital age employees of today do not come from the same cookie cutter generations of the past. They grew up under the unique duality of advanced technological freedom, and the very real constraints of an economic downturn. Some may be Millennials, other may not, but they all will value a work-life balance that is heavily tilted towards life, and they will all want to find their own” Lisa Mills “work from home moment.”
Causes are key for this new generation of employees. This is reflected in their desire to be a part of a community with a purpose, a community without borders. Traditional “book and lecture” training has been cast aside in favor of “hands on” engagements. These digital age employees value social technology, transparency and utility … and they are here to stay.
If the digital age was a basic SAT math equation, it would look something like this:
Evolving Employee Values
New Market Demands
What is the all-important answer of the digital age equation?
Drum roll please… (Ba da Dum)…
The Remote Team.
Lets begin with a simple, but essential question:
What is a remote team (i.e. telecommuting)?
A remote team (also known as a virtual team) is one comprised of a small number of individuals with mobile and agile technology skills. It is a trend that has increased 103% since 2005, and shows no sign of slowing down. Within the team, each member brings to the table complementary skills in both technology and interpersonal relationships. While individual responsibilities may differ, each member shares a collective responsibility for achieving the clearly defined objectives and goals of the greater organization.
A remote team is exactly what it sounds like – remote!
While clearly defined work objectives exist, members are not necessarily geographically co-located. The structure and communication within a remote team is less of a top down power structure, and more closely resembles a wider “solid line” communication structure.
Other key differences between remote and traditional teams include:
Many traditionalists would actually argue that these differences are, in reality, the clear disadvantages of working remotely. However, what that position fails to appreciate is that these “disadvantages” may actually assist in promoting not only company growth, but character and identity. More often than not, the naysayers focus on the same three differences we just reviewed: team communication, inter-company relationships, and company culture.
At the heart of the matter is this:
Effective telecommuting implementation demonstrates that success is determined by people and technology. No matter how far we evolve as a workforce, this notion will always instill fear in advocates of top-heavy managerial power structures.
How can remote teams help foster growth and innovation?
Well… rather than ramble on with my “digital age” rhetoric, I will allow the numbers to speak for themselves.
Let’s take a look!
The benefits of implementing telecommuting solutions, either partly or entirely, run deep. Most benefits focus on “value added” staff aspects.
For example, building a remote team allows companies to passionately recruit the most talented candidates for the job, regardless of geographic location. These candidates, valuing a great work-life balance, are also more likely to be retained.
Yet… numbers will always remain supreme when measuring ROI.
Therefore, let’s review some data measurables:
It is said that data never lies. If this is true, then it appears we have more than enough information to make a sound judgment regarding the benefits of going remote. Remember, if remote strategies can work for the likes of Amazon, IBM, and Apple, then they should be able to work for any business.
Now that we are familiar with “the what” and “the why” of remote team implementation, you are ready for “the how.”
If Richard Branson is right (and he is), and brick and mortar offices will one day be a thing of the past, then it is never too early to strategize for the future. Therefore, let’s take a look at the Five Pillars to building a Remote Dream Team.
The first step in going remote and building your dream team is to set clear goals and objectives. These goals should be aimed at overall organizational health, as well as individual employee success. As managing remote employees requires a disciplined approach, this should be reflected in your goals. Before the hiring process even begins (see Pillar #2), management should have a clear vision of team goals. Team goals will return to play a role once the hiring process begins, as it is a telecommuting best practice to align team goals with individual employee objectives. In this way, employees will feel more engaged, appreciative of their role, and have a clearly measurable path towards goal achievement.
What are some potential team goals? Very generally, they can be divided into revenue oriented goals, product / service oriented goals, and consumer related goals. For example:
Let’s take a look at how team goals and organizational vision will return to play a role in the employee hiring process.
Pillar #2 (likely the most important), is focused on the employee hiring process. It is here that organizations must efficiently hire remote workers that fit not only logistical needs, but the overall organizational vision. The most important employee attribute is that of trustworthiness. Therefore, it is imperative to implement proper hiring processes to ensure a good company cultural fit.
Remember, not everyone is Remote Dream Team material. Here are some basic traits to look for when hiring:
Once your team is in place and ready to go, you can begin the process of building Remote Dream Team comradery and culture.
What is the key to fostering a healthy remote work culture? As alluded to in Pillar #1, the key is to align organizational goals with those of your individual team members. As advanced communication solutions can often dull our human senses, it is important to remember that the names that appear in a Skype call, or via email, are more than just names… They are living, breathing, emotional individuals who have lives away from their Skype accounts and computer screens.
It is important to hire those individuals who are dedicated not only to work, but to living a fulfilling life. Managers must discover and unleash the passions of each individual remote team member. Whether it is reading, rock climbing, or running triathlons, great remote team managers will find a way to discover employee passions and align them with overall company goals.
Other viable ideas for culture and camaraderie building include:
Relationship building is inherent in communication, so let’s move on and take a look at Pillar #4!
Communication is the one multi-purpose pillar that can help serve and enhance any organizational purpose. As it is the base ingredient for any successfully implemented telecommuting team, communication should focus on mobility and flexibility. Not only is effective communication important for fostering culture and camaraderie, it is also a key factor in positive ROI.
What is one word to describe ideal communication?
As the majority of inter-team communications are likely to occur via ideas and thoughts on a screen (be it a tablet, a computer, or a phone), clear and concise writing should be priority number one. Clarity goes a long way in helping avoid misunderstandings (especially cultural), and can help diffuse the complicated / confusing situations that are bound to naturally occur in the remote team business life cycle.
In order to help prevent these situations from arising, various “communication best practices” should be implemented. These include:
The fifth and final pillar is the digital age glue that holds the whole remote team implementation process together:
Understanding that face-to-face meetings are nearly impossible without the use of technology, it is important for remote teams to stay organized and up-to-date on the most innovative work-flow solutions of the digital age. Advanced technology has a tendency to come at a premium, but given the savings on overhead, it is a worthy investment.
From Skype, to Google Hangouts, to Dropbox, there are a ton of great tools available to assist organizations with their communication needs. To help you get an idea of the essentials, we have compiled a list of our favorites:
While it is true that the sheer number of digital age tech solutions can appear daunting at times, this list should serve as a good investigative starting point for your Remote Dream Team. For further resources on virtual tech solutions, check out this great guide by highly successful virtual entrepreneur Chris Ducker.
As we have seen, geographically dispersed teams can offer huge benefits. From overhead savings, to top talent acquisition, to speed of thought communications, telecommuting is the present and future work paradigm for the digital age.
To ensure success, focus your attention on the basics: choose the right talent, align company values, foster effective communications, and select efficient technology.
Complete these basic steps, and your Remote Dream Team will be one step closer to becoming a digital age success.